{September 30, 2007}   Reflection to Paul Greenhalgh’s intro to The Persistence of Craft



Paul Greenhalgh’s book, The Persistence of Craft, brings up some controversial issues pertaining to the art world that need to be read and understood by not only professional artists and art students, but also the world at large. A few points in his introduction that interested me included the use of eclecticism in art, the combination and co-operative of companies and artists, economy issues, and the role of spaces, places, and museums for art.

Of all of those issues, I was most interested in the conversation about museology and what places vs. spaces do to the perception of displayed arts and crafts. Paul writes, “All too often, the public spaces we put works into shift them from being living, vibrant manifestations of poetry and humanity to being mere pieces of evidence that poetry and humanity once existed here.” I absolutely agree with this statement. Setting up an art show of “craft” art in a gallery setting seems to be less and less appealing to me as I think about it. I think that placing ceramic objects in a stark white setting with pedestals, etc. somewhat demeans the art itself. It is much more pleasing to think of walking into a warm room with windows and drapes, with art objects sitting and living in different areas of the space.

Paul refers to poetry in relation to this concept, as shown above. Certain art objects in certain settings can be quite poetic and graceful, but setting them individually in a blank room, with no interaction with anything else, just gives off a different feeling to the viewer. There are no relationships or other references to draw from that might add to the meaning of the piece(s) in the environment.

Greenhalgh gives an example of this concept by making reference to an instance where he and some friends and students walked into such a gallery space displaying some work by the Cubist artist Georges Braques Papiers Colles on the blank white walls. “[My friends and students] felt that they looked sad, tired, lonely and confused. It was a matter of museology; this tube-embraced barn-of-a-place had destroyed their scale; and the fact that they were lined up en serie, like a row of trophy heads in some weird clubhouse, had neutered them.”

The Gallery space that is so vital to our display of art these days is setting the work apart from something necessary to its meaning and life: an environment in which it can interact and thrive. I would be very much interested in seeing different, rarer, art displays for the public that fit into this category that may inform my own use of display.



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